>Praise Primer, Psalm 111

>In the original Hebrew language, Psalm 111 is an acrostic poem in which each line begins with consecutive letters of the alphabet.

The alphabet portion of the New England Primer uses an acrostic pattern to teach young children their A, B, Cs and simple theology. The New England Primer was the first published work for children in the American colonies. Its alphabet begins with this famous verse, “In Adam’s Fall, We sinned all.”

One can imagine little Jewish children memorizing the words of Psalm 111 to help them learn the alphabet and theology. The psalm contains a condensed overview of the gospel, the good news of God’s sovereignty and salvation.

It begins with a call to praise and a vow for faithful corporate worship:

Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation
(1, ESV).

On Wednesday evening, our church held its annual Prayer Day service, in which we hear a message from God’s Word and intercessory prayers for various aspects of life: business and agriculture, our country, diaconal causes, and the Church.

Perhaps because of recent turmoil in the world and in our lives, I was more blessed by this service than ever before. It was a joy to gather with my church family and pray together. My heart truly was thankful for the opportunity. And today, I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to return to corporate worship tomorrow, on God’s “festive day of rest” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 103).

Not only are Christians called to joyfully worship, but we are also called to lovingly study God’s works and words:

Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them
(2, ESV).

God’s splendid and majestic work is glorious. His faithful righteousness will never fade or fail:

Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever
(3, ESV).

In God’s great and gracious mercy, he has provided for the continuing transmission of his Word.

He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and merciful
(4, ESV).

As he spiritually feeds us from his Word, he also physically nourishes us and cares for our covenant children throughout their generations.

He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever
(5, ESV).

God demonstrated his power to Israel by bringing them out of Egypt’s oppression and bestowing them with a fruitful land, tilled and established by others.

He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations
(6, ESV).

God has also shown us his power by freeing us from sin’s bondage and granting us the freedom of an abundant life in Christ. Every day we benefit from his faithful works.

The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness
(7-8, ESV).

We can trust every part of eternal God’s Word. His works and his words are faithful and upright. His most awe-inspiring gift is the salvation he freely grants to his covenant people (9, ESV):

He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!

Awesome is a word that has almost lost its meaning through trivial overuse, but its most appropriate use is in describing God’s holy name. Our holy God’s amazing redemption through Jesus Christ and his covenantal love to believers and their children truly generate awe.

Wisdom begins with love and awe for God (10, ESV):

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

We shouldn’t shy away from the biblical term “fear of the Lord.” It doesn’t mean to be terrified of God, although it includes an element of understanding God’s power and his righteous anger against sin. The thought of a righteous and holy God ought to terrify those who don’t trust in Christ for their salvation! But believers understand the “fear of the Lord” to encompass much more than simply acknowledging his holiness and power. It also means to whole-heartedly love and serve God. When we praise God, participate in corporate worship, peruse his Word, proclaim his wondrous works, and promote the covenant faithfulness of his salvation, we begin to have true biblical wisdom.

The alphabet section of the New England Primer taught early American tots how to read by inculcating biblical truths. The original model for that primer may have been Psalm 111, the acrostic “Praise Primer” that teaches us to trust our heavenly Father with a child-like faith.


4 thoughts on “>Praise Primer, Psalm 111

  1. I hope you’ll excuse my constant stream of pingbacks to your blog…every now and then I try to update my Resources page with links I included in previous blog posts. Sorry for all these duplicates! (It just means I really appreciate your blog!)

    –Michael Kearney

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